A Guide to Nutrients


I have had a lot of questions lately regarding nutrition. I have to admit that when I began my journey almost four years ago, the nutrition part was definitely the most confusing. In our day and age, we have access to books, magazines and articles online to find information about nutrition, but if you don’t understand a few key things, you’ll still be lost. I sat down with a client yesterday to go over all of this with her and I am going to do the same with you right now. Grab some paper and something to write with and let’s get busy!

Ready?  Okay, first, fold your paper into thirds the long way (you should have three columns to write in now). Label your columns, ‘carbs’, ‘protein’, and ‘fat’. In the margin on the first line, write the word ‘breakfast’. Now think of foods you enjoy for breakfast that are good choices of carbs. My client chose things like oatmeal, cracked wheat cereal, whole wheat bread, fresh fruit and low fat granola. Repeat with the remaining two columns listing your choices for lean proteins and healthy fats. Some examples of lean proteins would be things like cottage cheese, eggs, egg whites, high quality protein powder or cooked chicken/turkey. Healthy fats could include foods such as olives/olive oil, avocados, almonds, peanut/almond butter or any unsaturated fats (oils that are liquid at room temperature).  When you have completed your columns for breakfast, continue to write your options in for lunch, dinner and snacks.

When you are ready to eat, simply pull out your list and make your food choices from the list that you created. Now, obviously we are using the honor system here. I can’t see what you are writing and never will, but keep in mind that the only person you are short changing by cheating is yourself! That said, cake, cookies and other such items should not be on your list!! The Mayo Clinic recommends that based on a 2,000 calorie diet, 225-325 grams, which is the equivalent of 45-65% of your daily calories, of carbohydrates should be consumed per day. If we consume carbs as 45% of our daily calories, each meal would include approximately 45-50 grams of carbohydrates. That leaves you 20-25 grams to use for each of three snacks. Keep in mind that the 45-50 grams per meal and the 20-25 grams per snack includes everything you eat for the entire sitting (including any breads, pastas or fruits), so choose wisely! Don’t forget that every gram of insoluble fiber listed on the nutrition label “cancels out” one gram of carbs. As an example, if a food has 28 grams of carbs but has 8 grams of insoluble fiber as well, your net carbs (the number of grams you  actually count as consumed) is only 20 grams! See? Fiber rocks!

Protein is a little different story. The quantity of protein consumed daily should be a little lower than the amount of carbohydrates eaten on the same day.  Based on the same 2,000 calorie a day diet, the Mayo Clinic suggests 50-175 grams of protein (10 to 35% of your daily calories). If we eat 27.5% (or 137 grams) of protein daily, that breaks down to approximately 30 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack (three daily).

Fat, believe it or not, is essential. There are certain vitamins that are fat-soluble, meaning your body cannot absorb and use them in metabolic processes without a certain amount of fat in your diet.   What does the Mayo Clinic have to say about fat? They recommend that you include 25-35% of your daily calories as fat. Now, I’m not a doctor nor have I done any clinical testing, but I am an NSCA certified personal trainer with personal experience in this area  and I can tell you that in  my case, 35% is too much. Personally, I use the same percentage for fat  as protein, 27.5% (or 61 grams).  At 27.5%, your breakdown is 12 grams of fat per meal and 8 grams per snack, assuming you are eating three snacks a day.

I’ve found that for myself, and my weight loss clients as well, that a 40/30/30 or a 45/27.5/27.5 split works the best.  What does that mean? Allow me to explain. The first number represents the percentage of your daily calories that should be carbs, so 40-45%, depending on which split you decide to try. The next two numbers represent the percentage of your daily calories for both protein and healthy fats, so 27.5-30%, again depending on which split you use. Did you notice that even though the percentage for protein and fat is the same, the number of grams for each is different?  That’s because of the difference in their caloric content per gram. All these percentages and grams can get confusing if you’re not careful!  I’ll break it down for you so you can get an idea of what it looks like.


The first thing you need to know is that carbs and protein each contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram. I’m going to use the 45/27.5/27.5 split in my example.

45% of 2000 calories=  900. That means 900 of your daily calories should be from carbs.

27.5% of 2000 calories=550. So, 550 of your daily calories should come from both protein and fat.

To figure out how many grams you will need of carbs, protein and fat, just divide the number of calories needed of each nutrient by the number of calories each nutrient contains per gram.

Carbs:   900 divided by 4= 225 grams

Protein:   550 divided by 4= 137.5 grams (round down to 137)

Fat:   550 divided by 9= 61.1 grams (round down to 61)

Another thing I ask my clients to do is this: As you look at your list and pick what you are going to have for each meal/snack, make sure that each nutrient is present in your choices in roughly the amounts mentioned above (or see above example on how to find your own unique ratios). By having a good combination of carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats each time we eat, our bodies are able to operate (and burn fat) at their highest level of efficiency.  Who wants a body that is efficient and burns fat at its optimum rate? I know I do! How about you?


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